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Existential metronome: vibrating watch messes with your sense of time





“Time flies when you’re having fun.” It’s a cliche, but it’s true. So is its inverse proposition. Just like we’ve all been to parties that passed in a blink, we’ve all sat through interminable work days where seconds seemed like hours, too. Time may march on objectively, but our minds play all sorts of tricks on us when it comes to how we perceive it.

Durr is a watch designed to draw attention to that slippery disconnect between time as it passes and how we perceive it passing. Instead of hands or numbers, it’s just a solid, colorful disk. Every five minutes, it vibrates. Think of it as a metronome for your day-to-day life.

The watch was designed by Theo Tveterås and Lars Marcus Vedeler, a Norwegian duo who work together as Skrekkøgle. The idea came from an observation one of them had about how fast it seemed like their days were going by when they were especially busy in their studio. They hacked together a quick and dirty prototype for a buzzing wrist piece, strapped it to their arms, and headed out for some beers. Immediately, the effect was noticeable. “We were surprised and excited about how tangible time suddenly seemed,” Tveterås says.

They came back to the studio the next morning and started work on a more refined piece of hardware. For the final product, Arduino guts hide inside a number of colorful housings, all attached to a thin leather strap. (You can buy one from the duo for €90.00 [£74.75].)

The simple hardware was about staying true to the essence of the original concept. “We like the idea of single-purpose objects,” Tveterås explains. “It has a calmer, more specific purpose than, say, a smartphone or a smartwatch.” He was happy to see that some friends had kept on wearing their Durrs as decoration even after their batteries died.

At this point, the designers have been wearing their shivering watches for six months. Tveterås says it adds an undeniable “rhythm” to the day, chopping it into chunks small enough to let you look back and consider what you’ve been doing (vibrating any more often than every five minutes, they found was annoying; any longer than 10 and it became hard to remember when the last interval started).


Of course, giving people an existential metronome can have the opposite effect. In some cases, it hasn’t led to the wearer noticing the passing of time but rather time passing away. “We’ve gotten feedback from other people using it that it acts a little like a countdown for life, which wasn’t the intention at all,” Tveterås says. “But the memento mori aspect is very fascinating too.”

This story originally appeared on Wired.com